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Berbice Bridge Company complies with “unlawful” govt takeover of bridge

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) on Tuesday said it has decided to comply with what it termed an “unlawful” toll order to temporarily take over the maintenance and operations of the bridge.

“The BBCI considers that it has no alternative but to comply with the Order issued by the Minister prohibiting the Company from implementing the Toll Order Adjustment announced on 16th October, 2018,” the bridge company said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the company said already the order issued by the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson to maintain and operate the bridge and to maintain the tolls as the same as those levied before the coming into operation of the Order. The BBCI wants an almost 400 percent increase in tolls from November 12, a move that has set government and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on a collision course.

“The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. considers, based on legal advice, that the Order is unlawful and ultravires under Section 11of the Berbice River Bridge Act on which it is based,” the company said.

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. says it has written to the Minister on Tuesday  requesting, pursuant to Section 15 of the Judicial Review Act, that the Minister supply the BBCI with a statement seeking the facts and reasons on which the Order is based.

Subject to the Minister’s response, the BBCI says it will consider its options which do not exclude a legal challenge to the Order.

Government says its decision to take over the bridge maintenance and operations from November 5, 2018 is temporary because talks with the BBCI will take some time.

The company has asked government to consider extending the concession agreement for 19 years.

The PPP has accused government of using the bridge as a political gimmick to scrape back lost political support from among Berbicians.